Sustainable Landscapes

Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces

Marsh migration research paved way for new NOAA fellow

Mary Schoell
Mary Schoell spent two years researching this stand of cedar trees at Hammonasset as part of her master’s degree program at Yale. Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

Most visitors to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn., probably drive by the small stand of cedar trees along the main road without noticing the stark differences.

One group presents healthy deep green funnels pointing skyward. Adjacent is another group partially bare of needles. A few feet away is a clump of standing dead wood, spiny gray branches fully exposed.

The contrasting conditions in this short wooded stretch may be easy for beachgoers to overlook, but Mary Schoell has given it countless hours of attention over the past two years. She’s examined nearly every angle of the health and environment of the same stand of trees, using techniques of dendrochronology to measure growth from tree cores, then assessing impacts of water stress, soil types and elevation. With this data she pieces together a story of how encroaching salt water from sea level rise is affecting tree growth. What she learned there helped pave the way for the next phase in her career, as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association digital coast fellow.

“I’ve been trying to understand the pace and the drivers that convert coastal forest into wetlands,” said Schoell, 27, who grew up in East Haddam and earned her undergraduate degree from UConn and her master’s from the Yale School of the Environment this spring. Between the degrees, she worked for three years for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atlantic Coastal Science Division in Rhode Island as a contractor on a living shoreline project.

Nominated by Connecticut Sea Grant for the digital coast fellowship, Schoell is one of nine candidates nationwide chosen in 2020 for the two-year program.

“The NOAA Digital Coast Fellowship is relatively new and Mary is the first candidate from a Connecticut institution to receive one,” said Syma Ebbin, research coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant. “We’re excited to see what she can do with this opportunity and how it contributes to her professional development as a coastal scientist.”

Schoell will begin her assignment in August, working out of the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. There she will work on projects that tap her wetlands expertise to refine and compare different modeling approaches used existing to predict how and where salt marshes will migrate inland as sea level continues to rise. One well recognized model is called SLAMM (Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model). By bringing together modelers from throughout the country, she hopes to assess the potential for a standardized, national mapping tool.

Read more: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/06/17/marsh-migration-research-paved-way-for-new-noaa-fellow/

Article by Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant

Connecting Towns and UConn Students

LID tour on UConn Campus
Climate Corps students tour low impact development on the UConn Storrs campus. Photo: Chet Arnold

UConn received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand and study a new public engagement program that combines teaching, service learning, and Extension outreach. The program is called the Environment Corps and focuses on using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to address important environmental issues like climate adaptation, brownfields remediation, and stormwater management at the municipal level.

Environment Corps combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and UConn Extension’s work with communities in a unique way that allows students to develop STEM skills and get “real world” experience as preparation for the work force, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.

The Environment Corps project is built on an extensive partnership at UConn. It includes faculty from four schools and colleges in five departments: Natural Resources and the Environment, Extension, Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Educational Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the project involves four university centers, all three environmental major programs, and the Office of the Provost. Learn more about the Environment Corps at clear.uconn.edu.

Article by Chet Arnold

Meet Sydney Collins: NRCA Intern

Sydney CollinsHello all! My name is Sydney Collins, and I am excited to announce my partnership with UConn Extension as a NRCA Intern for the Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) in Summer 2020. 

More about me, I am a rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut studying Environmental Science with a keen interest in Urban and Community Development. My love for the outdoors spawned from the beloved stream I regularly paddled around in growing up in the backwoods of Willington, CT. I was able to interact with a plethora of ecosystems right in my backyard and experience the beauty of the environment, that almost appears untouched by human influence.

This love soon turned into a passion when I uncovered the atrocities occurring to our planet, and thus the stream that I grew quite fond of. This was due to human dependence on fossil fuels to supply our ever growing energy demand and also the poor maintenance of our resources through dumping and pollution. I am fascinated by the intersection of social science and natural resources, particularly in the realm of environmental justice, to best curate human experiences founded on sustainable and accessible development. My engagement in organizations that address various local issues emphasize the importance of community-based initiatives, especially in reference to sustainability, hence my excitement to be involved in UConn NRCA. My interests are particularly focused on areas of food and energy production and how they influence the ever-dawning threat of climate change.

While I’m not interning at the office, I can also be found planting and plucking crops at a local farm in Coventry, where I work to better understand the farming practices that support the food we eat. I look forward to further engaging with my local communities at farmers markets to provide fresh grown vegetables, and thus decrease the carbon footprint of families shopping locally. When you’re not looking for a bite to eat, feel free to pop by the beautiful hiking trails of Vernon, where you can find me as a Trail Manager up-keeping the local landscape. 

I am so excited for all I have to learn at the “office” this summer through this distance internship, and all the wonderful workshops and community-initiated projects I have the pleasure to engage with. NRCA is a wonderful office, but we also would not be anything with the splendid engagement with local youth, volunteer adults, and professionals that bring great dedication to our programs. So here is to an amazing summer and all we have to learn!

Original Post: https://blog.nrca.uconn.edu/2020/06/11/meet-sydney-new-nrca-intern/

Conservation Training Partnerships

Connecting Generations for Conservation

students and adults in a Conservation Training Partnership program at UConnThe Cheshire Land Trust’s largest conservation property, Ives Farm, is a working 164-acre farm along the Quinnipiac River that includes picturesque public hiking trails through 80 acres of woodlands with mature stands of oak, mixed hardwoods, and old field cedars. In recent years, the trails became overgrown, impassable in spots and largely unused.

A Cheshire Land Trust volunteer sought to restore the trails and enlisted the help of a Lyman Hall High School student to get it done. Together they organized trail stewardship days to clear and clean the trails, used smartphones and a 360-degree camera to map them, and created an interactive website to educate the public about the trails and encourage their use. The property is now one of the land trust’s most popular for recreational use and education about the value of conservation.

This is just one of over 64 local conservation projects that have been undertaken throughout the state by intergenerational (adult plus teen) teams in the Conservation Training Partnerships (CTP) Program, a multi-departmental and multi-college effort at UConn that is funded by the National Science Foundation. Extension educators from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research’s (CLEAR) Geospatial Training Program collaborate with faculty from the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) and the Neag School of Education to create a unique intergenerational learning experience with innovative technology and conservation science to enhance community engagement in environmental issues.

Through the CTP, enthusiastic teens and knowledgeable local conservation leaders team up to form intergenerational teams, attend a two day workshop to build their skills, and then apply these skills to address local environmental issues. Many of the tools that the teams learn to use in the course of the workshop are free and accessible smartphone applications that marry mapping and ecological field data collection, the operation of which are taught by Extension’s Cary Chadwick and Dave Dickson.

The teams then plan and implement a local conservation project, with the guidance and help of project faculty from NRE, Extension and Neag. Issues addressed include water quality, recreational access, invasive species identification and removal, and biodiversity.

Within these broad categories, local projects have spanned a wide range including stream sampling, green infrastructure, grazing management plans, interpretive nature trails, wildlife monitoring, and more.

The program is truly one with multiple benefits. Local organizations and leaders get help in completing long-delayed “someday” projects, both participants learn about smartphone mapping tools and other technologies, and youth become more engaged in conservation science and action. “It is so inspiring to see local conservation leaders share their passion for the environment with the next generation of leaders and to see teens share their enthusiasm and technological skills to solve local challenges,” says Geospatial Extension Educator Chadwick.

John Volin, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, NRE Professor and the Principal Investigator of the project, says, “It’s gratifying to think about all the local conservation projects we’ve jump-started throughout the state.”

Article by David Dickson

Meet Meg Sanders: Environmental Education Intern

Meg SandersHello everyone, my name is Meg Sanders, and I am a UConn Extension Environmental Education intern with the Natural Resources Conservation Academy for summer 2020.

A little bit about myself, I am a sophomore at UConn studying environmental science with a minor in communication. I was an intern with UConn Extension during the summer of 2019 and I worked with other extension educators and 4-H educators. My experience with UConn Extension has allowed me to gain valuable field experiences at Auer Farm, the 4-H Hartford County Fair, and other 4-H sites in CT. I’ve been really lucky to have had opportunities working with many diverse groups of youth and adults in order to both teach others and learn about their experiences with the environment. I especially loved working with CT youth at Auer Farm, and being able to teach students who didn’t have much experience with rural ecosystems about the animals on a farm.

During the academic school year of 2019-2020, I was a grant recipient for the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Change Grant. With this grant, I worked with two fellow UConn undergraduate students to create environmental education curriculum kits that we hoped to distribute to middle school educators all over Connecticut. We prepared an online and in-class curriculum using existing 4-H educational materials on climate change education, and planned to distribute these and kits to CT middle schools before schools were closed down this spring. This effort was done in paralleled with Connecticut Environmental Action Day. From this experience, I was able to learn more about what goes into creating environmental educational content, and was able to further my experience working with extension educators.

My interests in the environment are still growing and changing daily. A fun fact about myself is that I had the opportunity to attend a short UConn study abroad experience before I began interning for UConn Extension. Unfortunately, it did not happen due to the pandemic, but we would have traveled to South Africa to study African field ecology. With this, I’d hoped to be able to see ecosystems that I normally wouldn’t be exposed to, and learn about what conservation means to different people around the world. This trip will not be happening this year but will be next year, and I hope to be able to still gain these unique experiences. Next year, I would love to be able to use some of the knowledge about conservation that I will have learned this summer and apply it to what I will be learning abroad.

This summer, I am very excited to learn how to provide environmental education in many ways, including online. Learning how to utilize resources online to deliver similar content that would have been used in hands-on field experiences will be interesting and thought-provoking. I look forward to improving my skills with mapping technologies, such as GPS and GIS. Overall, I look forward to being able to apply all of the natural resources knowledge that I can to other aspects of my life in order to promote conservation and sustainability.

Original Post: https://blog.nrca.uconn.edu/2020/06/09/meet-meg-new-ee-intern/

Partner Testimonials

boy eating from a bowl outside with another little boy behind himPartnerships are at the foundation of Extension’s work statewide in all 169 towns and cities of Connecticut. We integrate with agencies and non-profits in communities in a variety of ways.

“Our partnerships strengthen Extension, and in turn increase our statewide impact. Our innovative collaborations allow Extension and our partners to reach respective goals together.” ~ Mike O’Neill, Associate Dean and Associate Director, UConn Extension

“For the benefit of Connecticut farmers, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture collaborates with UConn Extension across many disciplines. From FSMA Produce Safety Rule education and outreach that expand market opportunities to Viability Grant funding of crucial research done by Extension educations, our strong partnership will help to sustain and foster innovation for agriculture in our state.” ~ Bryan Hurlburt, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture

“The Master Gardener Program has provided significant value to the Bartlett Arboretum for many years. We rely on Master Gardeners to support our community outreach in so many different ways. Examples of their contribution include Master Gardener availability in Plant Clinic from May through September of each year to address homeowner plant problems and issues. Master Gardeners conduct visitor tours of our gardens and our champion and notable trees. They provide Arboretum management with ideas for plants in our gardens. All of these activities enhance the visitor experience at the Bartlett Arboretum and further its mission.” ~ S. Jane von Trapp, CEO, Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford

“The information and assistance provided by CLEAR has enabled our town to save resources while complying with the requirements of the MS4 Permit. The template for the stormwater management plan alone saved us a significant amount of money by allowing staff to complete an acceptable plan in a minimal amount of time.” ~Warren Disbrow, Assistant Town Engineer, East Hartford

“We are grateful to partner with SNAP-ED and EFNEP to ensure the people we serve not only have access to nutritious food but also have opportunities to participate in evidence-based nutrition education. In food insecurity programs we can bring healthy food, and a pantry shopping experience directly to schools, senior centers and other community-based organizations. Through partnerships with SNAP-ED and EFNEP clients can learn, sample healthy recipes and then apply new skills to shopping.” ~ Jaime S. Foster, PhD, RD

“The Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) found a great partner in UConn Extension as we rolled out the Best Practices in Economic Development and Land Use Program that really asks, ‘How do we do our jobs better?’ In economic development in Connecticut we face a fiercely competitive landscape for jobs and investment. How we compete as a state matters, but at the end of the day, a company locates in a community. We want our communities to be as well-prepared as possible, and that’s something that UConn Extension’s programs in Community & Economic Development is doing every day. CEDAS offered the3platform to create a set of standards and the UConn team helped add the details. More importantly, they were the support to our communities that wanted to get better. We can all want to do a better job at local economic development, but if3there’s not someone there coaching and mentoring us along we’re not going to get there. UConn Extension was the helping hand that truly pulled our communities through the process and in the end, raised our standards for economic development in Connecticut.” ~ Garret Sheehan, CEcD, President Connecticut Economic Development Association, President and CEO Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

On the Trail Podcast

Cary Chadwick

Did you know that the CT Trail Census is starting a podcast? Well they are! It is called “On the Trail” and each week they focus on a different path having to do with trails and nature in Connecticut. This week’s episode features an interview with Cary Chadwick, a geospatial educator, about how to find the right trail for you. Check us out at https://uconnextension.podbean.com/ every Friday at 12pm!

Article by Neva Taylor

Project Expands Support for CT Shellfish Industry

Marc Harrell

Connecticut shellfish farmers who endured severe sales losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic are being offered the chance to earn income by working on a unique project to rehabilitate the state’s natural shellfish beds.

The project, developed by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, will employ shellfish farmers with vessels normally used to harvest oysters to instead raise and relocate oyster shell buried in silt and other materials off the bottom of the beds. The exposed oyster shell would then provide the preferred habitat for oyster larvae. The shellfish farmers would be compensated for a portion of their hours worked.

The project is the second phase of a three-part initiative to support shellfish farmers hurt by sales losses to restaurants and other key customers. At the same time farmers are being assisted, the natural shellfish beds that are the main source of oyster seed for Connecticut’s commercial and recreational beds will be restored to greater productivity. The natural beds span about 7,000 acres offshore in areas mainly from West Haven to Greenwich.

“We are pleased to have been able to secure new funds to support the aquaculture industry, using innovative avenues to provide some short-term cash flow for work that will enhance the productivity of natural beds in the future, with associated economic and ecological benefits,” said Sylvan De Guise, director of Connecticut Sea Grant.

Connecticut Sea Grant and the state Department of Agriculture collaboratively received $74,999 in federal funds from the National Sea Grant Office to fund the project, which is being supplemented with $50,474 worth of in-kind services. During the first phase of the project that began on May 6, shellfish farmers have been working on different areas of the natural beds than are being targeted in the second phase.

A third phase of the project, which would begin pending approval of additional federal funding, would compensate farmers for shellfish that have grown too large for consumer markets. Those shellfish would then be planted on closed portions of state and town shellfish beds across the state to repopulate those areas.

“Over the past four weeks, more than one dozen shellfish companies have actively rehabilitated the state’s public shellfish beds during phase one of this project plan,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “The implementation of phase two within the next week will enable continuation of this critical work in shallower areas and provide producers with compensation through our collaboration with Connecticut Sea Grant.

“These efforts are crucial to ensuring the future sustainability of the state’s shellfish industry through enhanced management of Connecticut’s public seed beds and facilitating availability of oyster seed to the entire industry,” Hurlburt said.

The Department of Agriculture will continue to document the enhancement achieved through the rehabilitation efforts using a combination of vessel monitoring system data, landings reporting and via the deployment of an underwater video camera. The camera footage would document bottom conditions of those areas that have been worked versus baseline conditions in areas of the beds that remain untouched. Staff intend to document long-term recovery of beds by assessing conditions and oyster recruitment levels on project areas in subsequent seasons. The information will be used to develop best management practices for the natural oyster seed beds to achieve maximum production of oyster seed there in the future.

Shellfish companies interested in participating in the program should submit their request via email to David Carey, director of the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture, at: David.Carey@ct.gov.

Original Post: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/06/04/project-expands-support-for-ct-shellfish-industry/

CT, NY Sea Grants to Create Plan for LIS Debris Reduction

scallop shells on a Connecticut beachAbandoned boats, broken lobster traps, discarded tires and all types of other trash aren’t just eyesores on Long Island Sound’s beaches, coves and channels.

They’re also hazards to wildlife that can impede navigation and threaten human safety and health. To address this problem, Connecticut and New York Sea Grant programs will initiate a Marine Debris Action Plan for Long Island Sound. The project will gather groups involved in removal and prevention work as the basis for to develop a comprehensive strategy to rid the Sound of as much debris as possible.

The Marine Debris Action Plan for Long Island Sound is one of eight projects awarded funding through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant-Marine Debris Special Projects Competition. A total of $350,000 was awarded for the eight projects, which will be matched by $350,000 from the state programs. The CT-NY project will receive $50,000 in federal funding which will be matched with $53,000 from the two programs. The two Sea Grant programs will develop the plan in cooperation with the EPA Long Island Sound Study, a bi-state cooperative partnership of state and federal agencies, and numerous user groups and organizations concerned about the estuary shared by New York and Connecticut. The NOAA Marine Debris Program coordinators for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions will be active participants, sharing insights and experiences from other similar efforts.

Read more:

https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/04/22/ct-ny-sea-grants-to-create-plan-for-lis-debris-reduction/

 

A Message to the CAHNR Community

banner of Extension programs

Dear Friends and Colleagues –

The events of the past few weeks have brought sadness and outrage to communities across our nation. The senseless killing of black men and women demonstrates that as a nation, we need to make further and strong progress toward our aspirations of a diverse and inclusive society.

The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources remains steadfastly committed to our goals of creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive environment for us all. In these troubled times, we must stand tall in our beliefs and redouble our resolve to ensure that all members of our community feel safe and welcome. We will continue to take multiple steps to promote diversity and inclusion throughout our college and our communities.

On behalf of the college and in cooperation with our Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to all who have been impacted by these senseless acts. I know that you share my commitment to supporting all individuals in communities across our state, the nation, and the world.

Best regards on behalf of myself and the CAHNR Committee on Diversity and Inclusion,

Indrajeet Chaubey, Dean

CAHNR Committee on Diversity and Inclusion
Maria-Luz Fernandez, Nutritional Sciences, Chair
Sharon Gray, Extension
Miriah Kelly, Extension
Beth Lawrence, Natural Resources and Environment
Michael O’Neill, Associate Dean, ex-officio
Sara Putnam, Communications, ex-officio
Farhed Shah, Agricultural and Resource Economics
Ellen Shanley, Allied Health Science
Brandon Smith, Animal Science
Young Tang, Animal Science
Beth Taylor, Kinesiology
Huanzhong Wang, Plant Science and Landscape Architecture
Xiaohui Zhou, Pathobiology and Veterinary Sciences